Canada Out of Afghanistan!
Canadian War Drive Shifts into High Gear - A Call for an Independant Public Inquiry
Article first appeared in Fire This Time Issue #25, August 2005. htpp://www.firethistime.net
By Ivan Drury
Since September 11th 2001, every bomb blast or plane crash that has set fl ame to the skies over the soil of so-called “great countries” has been taken as an opportunity to launch another offensive in the so-called “war on terror.” It took only one week for the Canadian government to realize that the subway bombings in London at the beginning of July could be the chance they needed to publicly launch their new, ambitious war plans in Afghanistan.
Thus, at a press conference on July 14th, the new Canadian Chief of Defense Staff, General Rick Hillier busted the ceremonial champagne bottle over the bow of a 2,000 strong Canadian troop deployment to Afghanistan. This announcement, and the enthusiasm with which Hillier trumpeted the charge to battle (uncharacteristic of the Canadian “peacekeeping” military), took many people in Canada by surprise.
“Our job is to be able to kill people,” Hillier bragged. “These are detestable murderers and scumbags, I’ll tell you that right up front. They detest our freedoms, they detest our society, they detest our liberties.” And “We’re not going to let those radical murderers and killers rob from others and certainly we’re not going to let them rob from Canada.”
A far cry from Canada’s “peacekeeping tradition”, no? You would think that at least one of the major political parties in Canada would raise hell over these words, no? No. Hillier’s words were not just imprecise, they were racist, warmongering lies. The Canadian forces have been doing their “job” killing people in Afghanistan since 2001. And the results of the NATO occupation (that Hillier himself had command over) have made it very clear to the Afghan people what “our” freedoms, society and liberties really mean:
Over three years of occupation has won Afghanistan the trophy of being the poorest country in all of Asia. Between 2003 and 2004 the life expectancy in Afghanistan has fallen by four and a half years to 42 years old. The country has graduated in the 2005 class of “worst education system in the world” with an adult literacy rate of less than 30%. The maternal mortality rate is 60% higher in Afghanistan than in the powerful countries that have occupied it and 20% of all children die before kindergarten age – if there were any kindergartens to go to. This war-ravaged and chronically un-reconstructed country boasts such sweeping unemployment and de- industrialization that 60% of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product is the production of opium. The celebrated September “election” is even on the verge of being called off due to a funding shortfall of $31Million that had been promised by a gaggle of imperialist countries, but must have been lost in the mail.
On top of all this, the UN has reported that the Afghan government cannot be sustained without occupation military support because, on top of a host of “security” problems, Afghanistan’s economy is too weak to pay for a bureaucracy of its own.
The Broad Unofficial Coalition for War and Occupation
Mr. Hillier, (you’d hope that even one political party in Canada might’ve asked) what can these poor people possibly rob from Canada? Sure, they might be able to win back their land from the occupying Canadian forces, but wouldn’t that be helpful all around? Certainly, the occupation has not helped anyone so far...
Instead, every single major political party in Canada lined dutifully up behind Hillier and slapped him on the back:
Conservative Party, “Conservative MP Gordon O’Connor said Gen. Hillier ‘speaks like a soldier, not a diplomat. He’s starting to give the public an idea that the troops are about to go in a dangerous area and he’s trying to explain why they’re going there in the pursuit of terrorists,’ “ – Globe and Mail, July 16 2005
Liberal Party, “General Hillier is not only a top soldier, he is a soldier who has served in Afghanistan,” Paul Martin said Friday in Nova Scotia. “The point he is simply making is we are at war with terrorism and we’re not going to let them win.” - Canadian Press, July 16 2005
New Democratic Party, “Controlled anger, given what's happened, is an appropriate response," NDP Leader Jack Layton said. "We have a very committed, level-headed head of our armed forces, who isn't afraid to express the passion that underlies the mission that front-line personnel are going to be taking on. A bit of strong language in the circumstances, I don't fi nd that to be wrong." – Globe and Mail, July 16 2005
In the August 1st Globe and Mail, there appeared a creepy photograph of Defense Minister Bill Graham standing stoically, eclipsed behind the right shoulder of an enraged General Hillier. This photograph sticks out as the perfect picture of the government’s approach to their strategic public relations shift from “peacekeeper” to warmonger. On this important political, military and economic shift, there was no debate in Parliament, no public consultation about the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars; the decision to ship out 2,000 Canadian soldiers to seriously heavy combat wasn’t even announced by a Parliamentarian.
They stood Gen. Hillier (a common looking, working class-talking guy) up, pulled his string and let him go – and they stood back and watched. The government managed their secret unanimous decision to kill Afghan people in the name of Canadian dollars in the same way they drafted their plan: from the shadows.
Of course, because the government managed the move without debate or democratic process, and presented it casually through a stooge military man, there was little reaction from people in Canada. And, as they certainly expected, most of the criticism that did come was against the racist language that Hillier used, rather than against the government policy he was reporting. They laughed it off; he “speaks like a soldier, not a diplomat.” And with that, the issues, and any possibility of scandal, were neatly averted.
Amongst all the so-called “democracies” in the world, only the Canadian government could so cleverly bury the unanswerable questions that they so desperately do not want to have asked:
Why is the Canadian military occupying Afghanistan? Why has the Canadian military budget been doubled? Why are 2,000 more Canadian soldiers being sent to kill Afghan people? How much is Afghan blood going to cost in taxpayer dollars? Who made these decisions? When were they discussed in parliament? Why don’t people in Canada know what the government is doing?
No major political party wants to hear these questions, because they know that we won’t like the answers.
Middle Power Blues: Blowing up Canada’s place on the world stage
“There are powerful global economic forces at work, and economies everywhere need to make adjustments.” - David Dodge, Governor of the Bank of Canada, 15 April 2005
“Our old middle power identity imposes an unnecessary ceiling on what we can do and be in the world. Canada can make a difference.” - Canada’s International Policy Statement, May 2005
“Kandahar will be the acid test of whether or not we can bear the price of our latest goal,” - Nic Boisvert, Council for Canadian Security in the 21st Century, July 2005
The US invasion and occupation of Iraq deeply impacted the foreign policies of every imperialist country in the world, while, and through, destroying the lives of millions of Iraqis. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the imperialist world had, for the most part, managed with an economic-imperialist model of pillaging the wealth of the people of the world. Through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund they privatized resources and deregulated industries in countries they didn’t bother sending their armies into. When they needed to put down an uprising in whatever country they were stealing from, they managed, most of the time, to do it with local hirelings. But then, at the end of the 20th century, all of that changed. The global economy was entering a crisis, slipping down from the New York high-rises towards the unknown depths of the Pacific Ocean. The US was losing their monopoly markets in Latin America and France and Germany were upping their investments in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. By the time the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, the US ruling class had already planned out its counterattack. While they were loosing the status of the most powerful country in the world economically, they still retained their title as the lone military superpower in the world. The invasion and occupation of Iraq re-wrote the rulebook of relations between imperialist rivals and the race for direct military control of the world (hegemony) was on.
Since then, Canada has been preparing its response and testing the waters of possibility for securing Canada’s “place on the world stage.” In his January 2005 Throne Speech, Paul Martin outlined the world economic crisis, “In our current age, the changes to the world’s economic, security and political landscape are increasingly seismic, the global faultiness more unstable and numerous.” And these concerns are echoed by the Royal Bank of Canada and the National Bank of Canada. Even in their whitewashed reports on how the Canadian economy is performing better than the US, there appears an ever-present skepticism about the instability of the current economic position of Canada.
New International Policy Statement
In May 2005, the Canadian government produced a new “International Policy Statement” covering Defense, National Security and International policy all in one integrated document. Titled, in typical “Canadian” fashion, “A Role of Pride and Influence in the World,” the policy statement replaces the 20 year-old cold war-based “White Paper” on defense and clearly lays out the Canadian government’s “commitment to reinvesting in Canada’s international role.”
In the introduction to the International Policy Statement, Prime Minister Paul Martin explains why international policy is integral to a healthy economy. “From the ‘inside out,’ global markets for our goods, services and investments are a principle engine of our growth which could not be sustained by our relatively small domestic market of 32 million people,” and, “We are in the midst of a major rebalancing of global power. New nations are rising as military and economic forces. Many established powers are striving to maintain their influence through regional integration and new alliances. In a world of traditional and emerging giants, independent countries like Canada -countries with small populations - risk being swept aside, their influence diminished, their ability to compete hampered. That may sound dramatic, but the stakes are that high. We will have to be smart, focused, agile, creative and dogged in the pursuit of our interests.”
It would be useful to reprint the entire statement in quotation, but it is necessary to summarize. The meat and potatoes of the document is that Canada has earned “a reputation as a middle power” but that reputation is “no longer accurate” with the rise of other “giants” on the horizon. In order to recapture and hold (and advance!) its position as a middle-powerful country, Canada must “no longer spread ourselves thinly across multiple activities, or across every region. Based on a clear understanding of where our interests lie, we will focus on particular threats, particular partners, particular markets and particular institutions. Our goal is to have the capacity to take action, when and where we have a practical policy outcome clearly in view.” (emphasis ours)
Sort of spells out the focus and investment in Afghanistan, eh?
But despite the sudden change in publicly announced policy, none of this comes as a real surprise. Canada as a nation state is itself built on the theft of land and resources of Indigenous people who are now walled in within Canada’s colonial borders. In order to change course from a history that rakes money from the lands cleared by smallpox and gunpowder, justice for those hundreds of colonized Indigenous Nations would first have to be won. With this history still very much alive, it is not surprising that the government of Canada’s “interests” are opposed to those people who they occupy, kill, exploit and steal from in Afghanistan, Haiti and within Canada itself.
The Canadian Occupation of Afghanistan: Illegitimate and Illegal
Canada is the 8th largest economy and the 5th largest trader in the world and its adoption of an aggressive imperialist foreign policy will have grave repercussions on an international level. You’d think that at least the people who live in this apparently “democratic” country would have a say, or at least know about, the war and occupation plans of the government of Canada.
In the last three months the government of Canada has decided to double the military budget, increase the size of the military by 5,000 troops and 3,000 reserves and send 2,000 more troops into combat in Afghanistan – all without a word of debate publicly or even in Parliament.
On the most important question, the new deployment to war in Afghanistan, the government has not even taken credit for the decision! So who decided this? Hillier, all by himself? Canada is called a democracy because it has a Parliament that is responsible for the important decisions that will affect people who live in Canada. In simplest terms, the government of Canada is responsible for the management of the tax money it takes from workers in Canada. Governments rise and fall on the question of what they say they will do, and then do, with tax money.
The decision to send 2,000 troops to Afghanistan will have serious repercussions for the Afghan people and also for people in Canada. Hillier all but promised that Canadian soldiers will die in this mission. He swore that Afghan people will be killed by these soldiers; and he warned that “terrorists” may attack Canada because of this war drive. On top of this, billions of tax dollars will be spent, money that could go towards the healthcare, housing, welfare, etc… systems that have been cut away from working people in Canada.
It is precisely because working and poor people in Canada would not support this war drive that it was snuck through the back doors of Parliament. This undemocratic deceit and cover-up goes behind the backs of all poor and working people in Canada because the government and ruling class have decided unanimously, amongst themselves, that it is in their interest that Canada establish its presence in Afghanistan and “kill people” to do it.
The Canadian war drive in Afghanistan is a major issue for people in Canada. It spells out the continued killing of Afghan people and the further destruction of their country while promising nothing but drained tax dollars, British-style race terror against Arabs and Muslims, and escalating attacks on unions, poor people and Indigenous people in Canada.
Canada’s full-scale entry into the era of war and occupation must be heard as a call to action for the anti-war movement, unions, community and religious groups and all working, poor and oppressed people in Canada. For our interests and the interests of the Afghan people, we call for an urgent independent public inquiry into the illegal, illegitimate and undemocratic, extra-parliamentary deployment of troops to Afghanistan, and that we raise our voices together:
CANADA OUT OF AFGHANISTAN!
BRING ALL TROOPS HOME NOW!
STOP THE CANADIAN WAR DRIVE!
MONEY FOR LIFE, NOT FOR WAR!